Saving rural areas from development; Planners trying to protect Kingsville, Green Spring Valley


Aiming to protect the lush Green Spring Valley and rural Kingsville areas, Baltimore County planners want to keep development at bay by assuring that those areas remain outside the limits of public water and sewer service.

Neither area is in danger of significant development because they are protected by zoning and by county policy that prohibits the extension of water and sewer service to those areas.

But planners warn that they lie within the boundaries of a long-established sewer and water service district that is confusing and could foster development.

Yesterday, after hearing the planners' concerns, the county Planning Board decided the matter was too important to resolve in one meeting. It agreed to study the issue -- one of many raised in the county's 10-year master plan, which the board sent on to the county council. The council must approve the master plan before it is adopted.

"It's a big debate unto itself," said Planning Board member Ellwood A. Sinsky, a local builder.

Sewer and water service in the county is provided by Baltimore. A 1924 state law establishes the Metropolitan District -- that area to which services may be provided.

But the district is considerably larger than the county's designated growth area, and the county has agreed only rarely to extend water and sewer lines beyond its growth boundaries.

Planning Director Arnold F. "Pat" Keller said that in those cases there have been health concerns, but argued that there are other means of assuring the public's health without running water and sewer lines to rural areas.

Keller said there are valid reasons to constrict the Metropolitan District boundaries so that they coincide with the county's 20-year-old growth boundary -- called the Urban Rural Demarcation Line.

He said that under the state's Smart Growth laws, the county could not receive state help for roads and other projects in the areas that lie outside the county's designated growth boundaries.

Another reason, he said, is that the Green Spring Valley and Kingsville areas have been designated by the county for preservation and that to extend water and sewer service would be detrimental to their rural character.

Sinsky noted that the county has approved water and sewer service extension outside the growth boundary when residents have been faced with failing septic systems and tainted water.

"There is no correlation between public health and zoning," he said. "We want to give sewer and water to people who need it."

Even if the county decided to try to constrict the Metropolitan District boundaries, it might not be able to do so. Extensions of water and sewer outside the district require the approval of the Baltimore City Council and mayor. A restriction could require city approval and perhaps even state approval because the district was established by a state law.

Keller said more research is needed to determine how the boundaries could be changed.

Any change in the boundary also would affect a different issue -- where firearms may be discharged. County laws currently make it illegal to discharge a firearm within the Metropolitan District. Reducing the district would enlarge the area where guns could legally be fired.

But county planners said that concern could easily be addressed by changing the county code to limit gunfire to certain rural zones or by establishing a separate map of legal areas for gun use.

Pub Date: 9/24/99

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad